News of the Day: 9 April 2021

Amnesty International: The trial of Yulia Tsvetkova, an artist, feminist and LGBTI rights activist, on absurd charges of pornography for her drawings of female bodies, will begin on 12 April in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia’s Far East region. “This absurdity has lasted almost a year and a half. A woman has been criminally charged with ‘producing pornography’ simply for drawing and publishing images of the female body and freely expressing her views through art. During this ordeal, Yulia has spent time under house arrest and twice been subjected to extortionate fines under the so-called ‘gay propaganda’ law,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

RSF: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Russia, whose peacekeepers have controlled access to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia since the end of last autumn’s war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over this disputed territory, to stop denying entry to foreign reporters. RSF also urges the UN and Council of Europe to ensure respect for the right to the freedom to inform.

The Moscow Times: Russia has confirmed 4,614,834 cases of coronavirus and 101,845 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is above 422,000.

The Guardian: The prominent Kremlin critic Nikolai Glushkov was strangled at his home in south-west London by an unknown assailant who wrapped a dog lead around his neck in a crude attempt to “simulate” the appearance of suicide, an inquest heard. Glushkov’s body was discovered on 12 March 2018 at his suburban home in New Malden. His daughter Natalia Glushkova told the hearing that she and Glushkov’s partner, Denis Trushin, had called round that evening after growing concerned.

RFE/RL: A court in Moscow has sentenced a man to 3 1/2 years in prison on a criminal charge of attacking a police officer during January 31 rallies in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. The Meshchansky district court on April 9 found Pavel Grin-Romanov guilty of using pepper spray against a police officer during the dispersal of the demonstrators. Grin-Romanov pleaded “partially guilty” admitting he sprayed the pepper spray in the direction of the riot police but did so to protect his wife who was with him.

RFE/RL: Russian security agents have searched the home of one of the country’s most prominent investigative journalists and brought him in for interrogation, in what his lawyer and editorial team said was related to coverage of one of Russia’s most powerful men. After agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB) searched his Moscow apartment on April 9, Istories editor-in-chief Roman Anin was taken to the Investigative Committee in connection with enquiries into “violation of privacy by abusing his professional functions,” his lawyer Anna Stavitskaya said. On its Telegram channel,Istories reported that the last thing they heard from Anin was that the search may be related to a previous case opened in 2016, after a report by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper suggested that state-owned oil giant Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin had links to a yacht valued at $100 million. Anin had previously worked for Novaya Gazeta, the most prominent opposition newspaper. The newspaper was found guilty of defamation after Sechin filed a complaint about the report. In a statement on April 9, Novaya Gazeta’s editorial board said the case was reopened in March after Rosneft filed a claim against Istories.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s Constitutional Court on Friday ordered stronger laws to punish repeat domestic violence offenders, saying both the penalties as well as protection for victims were insufficient. Activists have been lobbying for stricter legislation and measures to prevent domestic violence, which has been rampant in Russia for years. The ruling follows an appeal filed by a woman who was “systematically” beaten by her brother. He was found guilty of committing multiple offenses but only served 100 hours of community service in 2019.  According to activists, nearly 16.5 million women in Russia suffer domestic violence every year. 

The Guardian: The singer’s fight against domestic violence and homophobia and her body-positive posts on Instagram have led to a torrent of abuse – some from very powerful people. Russia’s 2021 Eurovision candidate breezes into a conference room, Channel One documentary film crew in tow, offering a simple tea of mint leaves brewed in hot water. “On days like today, I want something calming,” Manizha says, pouring two cups, as a boom mic hovers over us. No pressure. The Tajikistan-born singer, who will perform her feminist ballad Russian Woman next month at the much-loved, much-mocked song contest in Rotterdam, is the target of a fiery conservative backlash for her foreign roots and her lyrics attacking female stereotypes.

The Moscow Times: A pair of notorious Russian pranksters who regularly target Kremlin opponents and world leaders with prank calls have failed in their latest trick, a senior aide to jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Thursday. Vovan and Lexus, the moniker used by bloggers Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, have made international headlines for duping figures including Prince Harry, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron.  Navalny’s aide Leonid Volkov wrote on social media that the pranksters had tried using his name to organize a conference call with a key European security body. 

Caucasian Knot: The threats received by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the scriptwriter of the serial “Topi” (Moors), from Chechen Internet users have appeared amid the growth of general aggression in the society, Valery Borschov, a human rights defender, believes. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that the “Topi” TV serial had angered social network users from Chechnya, who treated the heroine’s behaviour as immoral. Some users have expressed direct threats against Glukhovsky. Other Instagram debaters assert that the plot of serial is fictional and should not be taken so seriously. Their opponents claim that Chechens must defend their identity in every possible way. One of the plot lines in the serial is dedicated to a Chechen girl who runs away from her Chechen groom to the village named Topi. The serial shows, among other things, bed scenes with the participation of this heroine, and also touches on the theme of the Chechen Wars.

RFE/RL: “I have trouble breathing. I can’t catch my breath and have trouble understanding things,” said businessman Boris Shpigel, who is suspected of bribing the former governor of Russia’s Penza region, at a court hearing on April 6. “I’m in great pain…. My stomach hurts and I can’t catch my breath.” “I don’t have long left, a few days,” Shpigel, 68, predicted. “I haven’t slept for six days because I can’t find a comfortable position. I hurt all over and my right leg is numb…. Every day is torture for me. I can’t take anymore. I can’t stand it.” Such allegations are nothing new for Russia’s opaque prison system. For years, activists, lawyers, and former prisoners, have drawn attention to the poor quality of medical care in Russian prisons and pretrial detention centers and have alleged that, in many cases, medical treatment is withheld to pressure suspects, to extract false confessions or accusations, or simply as a form of punishment. “As for medical care overall, often a prison will only have a paramedic and no real schedule for when specialists will visit,” said Asmik Novikova, director of research at the nongovernmental legal aid organization Public Verdict. “This is, of course, a very serious problem.”

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